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The Federal Communications Commission and the Commerce Department had bad news on Friday for wireless carriers seeking new spectrum allocations, sending a decidedly different signal than Commerce Secretary Don Evans sent a day before. In two lengthy reports released Friday, the FCC and the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration both concluded that significant hurdles blocked the availability of the airwave slices sought by wireless carriers for new broadband, or third-generation, services. Just a day earlier, Evans summoned representatives of the major carriers, including Sprint PCS, AT&T Wireless, Cingular Wireless and Verizon Wireless, to a private meeting where he sought to distance the Bush administration from those conclusions, people familiar with the meeting said. “He reiterated 5 trillion times that he’s only been on the job for two months, and that these reports are not the end of the game,” said one industry source familiar with the meeting. “He was frankly dismissive about [Friday's] report.” The staff-level reports are not binding for the Bush administration, which could craft an entirely new approach. A spokesman for the Commerce Department had no immediate comment on the Thursday meeting. Last year, wireless carriers’ pleas for more spectrum first reached the top levels of the White House. In a white paper released by Clinton staffers in October, the administration set a strict timetable for clearing some airwaves for third-generation wireless services by September of this year. Under the plan, NTIA was to review possible spectrum currently used by government agencies, and the FCC was to evaluate possibilities for airwaves currently assigned to nongovernmental parties. The bands considered by NTIA and the FCC were identified last year at the World Radiocommunication Conference, an international meeting of government regulators, as the most viable for third-generation uses around the world. The big global carriers will save a bundle in equipment purchases if the U.S. and other major powers like the European Union and Japan settle on the same bands for 3G. Common bands also will allow consumers to use their 3G devices more easily around the world. But in Friday’s reports, the FCC and NTIA found serious obstacles in the U.S. to clearing the bands highlighted by the international conference for 3G usage. The FCC said the commercial bands it reviewed, lying between 2500MHz to 2690MHz, are already being used by educational institutions and several telecommunications companies that plan to offer high-speed Internet service in competition with landline services running over telephone and cable TV wires. Reworking the assignments or sharing the band “to enable third-generation mobile wireless systems access to a portion of this spectrum would raise significant technical and economic difficulties for incumbents,” the FCC concluded. That was welcome news for the Catholic Television Network, which has licenses in those bands to conduct educational television and broadband service. The group said it was “gratified” by the FCC report, adding, “It is important to determine whether the cellular industry truly needs more spectrum, or whether it can operate more efficiently and use its existing spectrum for 3G services.” Wireless carriers were decidedly less enthusiastic. “They were a little discouraging,” said Verizon Wireless spokesman Jeffrey Nelson. “But we’re very encouraged by the comments of Secretary Evans.” The NTIA reviewed the bands between 1710MHz and 1850MHz, which currently are used by government agencies and the military for everything from interstellar radio astronomy to air-combat communications. Related Articles from The Industry Standard: Bush Makes Nice With Tech Leaders More Delays for Ultrawideband FCC Postpones 700MHz Spectrum Auction Copyright � 2001 The Industry Standard

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